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Kush Arora on The First Steps in Criminal Cases

The following is an excerpt from an interview with Maryland criminal defense attorney Kush Arora.

What are some of the first things that you look at in a criminal case?

Kush Arora: The first things that I look at are the constitutional issues that might be associated with the case. In many criminal cases, issues associated with the Fourth Amendment, which is our right to not be subjected to unlawful searches and seizures, have a great deal to do with how evidence is gathered and presented. Identifying problems with the way that evidence was gathered usually is the key to a strong defense in many criminal cases. A lot of clients call me on cases associated with drugs, weapons, or even a DUI. They think that the entire case is going to be won or lost at trial when the evidence is put on and I have to correct them. Many of these cases are not won and lost at trial when the evidence is put before the finder of fact (judge or jury). It is won or lost at a motions hearing. This would happen before the trial in many situations, where a judge would determine exactly what evidence is going to be admissible at trial. That motions hearing might keep a gun, a bag of marijuana, or some other piece of evidence out and away from the finder of fact, whether it’s a judge or a jury, and really be the deciding factor in whether the state has a case to move forward or not. Constitutional issues actually play a huge part in a criminal case, whether they have to do with the Fourth Amendment or something else, like the Fifth Amendment, which would be somebody’s right not to incriminate themselves usually by testifying at trial; witnesses often use Fifth Amendment privileges in criminal cases having to do with assault or domestic violence. Constitutional issues play a huge role in criminal cases. They’re usually the first thing that we examine when a case comes across our desk because the key to a favorable result for our clients is often found in identifying those issues and utilizing them to our advantage.

Are there certain questions that you always ask during an initial meeting with a client?

Kush Arora: The intake aspect is a very important step in preparation of a case because it allows me to have my client’s perspective on the events in question. Oftentimes, when someone is charged, the only information available is a police report which is often a one-sided representation of what occurred. The important questions that I ask my clients allow us to put the case into some context. That can be of huge assistance not only at trial, but also in conversations leading up to trial, whether they are in chambers where we’re speaking to the judge about the direction a case might be going in, or, more commonly, during a plea negotiation with prosecutors, where a prosecutor is informally discussing with us exactly what our position is to potentially resolve the case.